It is carved into park benches, tattooed on biceps, stuck to truck bumpers, scribbled on the cheeks of ballers, worn on t-shirts and hung on bridge overpasses.  John 3:16, a ubiquitous billboard reminder of God’s coming condemnation, a divorce between sinner and saint, hell and heaven, darkness and light.  Yes, it is a text of judgment, but just not in the way the Church and its followers have intended.

John 3:14-21 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

What’s God’s condemnation?

Congregational Responses:

God doesn’t condemn, we only do it to ourselves

That we can live in the hell of being unable to love

A woman in South Africa, tells Peter Story, was heading home from work, walking late at night.  She felt the stranger approaching in the night, the danger nearing.  She couldn’t see him but could feel the terror building.  In a strange turn, she stopped, faced the man and said, “I’m scared and I wonder if you could walk me home to make sure I get there safety?”  The victimizer said, “Um, yes.  I’ll walk you home.”  At the door, he continued, “I had planned to rape you but when you turned and looked at me you saw me, really saw me in a way the world denies.  That was enough.”

What’s God’s condemnation?

“Never resign yourself to the scandal of the separation of Christians,” says Brother Roger, “who readily confess love for their neighbor, and yet remain divided.”

A scripture misinterpreted for the sole purpose of banishment is no longer inspired.  The text doesn’t read God so loved only a fraction of creation, or God so loved only those who recited the sinner’s prayer, or God so loved only those who came forward for the altar call.

John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world,” all of it, and every crack, crevice and criminal in between.

God sent his only Son, a savior who refuses to pull up the weeds, who trusts his treasury to a thief, who proclaims a rapist brother, who trespasses over every boundary of his own Church’s exclusion.

Jesus is God’s judgment on the world, a condemnation of love.